Illustration: Trembelat for BIRN.

PISA results paint dispiriting picture

Results from the 2018 PISA tests show Kosovo’s 15-year-olds recording some of the lowest average scores among all the countries tested in reading, maths and science.

The results of the OECD’s 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment, PISA, were released on Tuesday, with students assessed in Kosovo recording some of the lowest average scores among all of the countries tested. Just over 5,000 15-year-olds from 224 schools across Kosovo took part in the assessment, which tested abilities in reading, mathematics and science.

Students from Kosovo’s neighboring countries, Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia all recorded higher average scores in all three subjects, while the average of the three scores was the third lowest amongst all of the countries tested. In Kosovo’s only previous participation in PISA in 2015, the average score from the assessment was also among the lowest three of the countries tested. 

Outgoing Minister of Education, Shyqyri Bytyqi, told a press conference on Tuesday that time was needed to analyse the results, having made claims in September that Kosovo would climb three positions in the PISA rankings. 

“We said we expect better results, and these are not the results we expected,” Bytyqi told the press conference. “We cannot point the finger at one person only.” 

Low levels of proficiency

In reading, Kosovo’s 15-year-olds’ average score was 353, a slight improvement on 2015’s score of 347, but way below the OECD average score for the 2018 assessment, which was 487. 

PISA scores are also placed on a series of levels to determine proficiency in the three subjects, with Level 6 being the highest. A score of 353 places Kosovo’s average 15-year-old at Level 1a, while PISA considers students who score below Level 2 to be “low performers in reading.” 

Only 21 per cent of Kosovars were able to attain a score of at least Level 2 proficiency in reading, while the average percentage among the countries tested was 77 per cent.  

In mathematics, Kosovo again saw a minimal increase from the previous assessment, with 2018’s average score of 366 four points above the 362 attained in 2015. 

However, it was again way down on the OECD average of 489, while the score of 366 places the average Kosovar 15-year-old at Level 1 proficiency, which PISA describes as “low achievers in mathematics.” In Kosovo, 23 per cent of students were able to attain Level 2 proficiency or higher, while the average among the countries tested was 76 per cent.

In the science assessment, students in Kosovo performed worse in 2018 than in 2015, with the average score dropping from 378 in 2015 to 365 in 2018. The OECD average score in Science in 2018 was 489. 

According to this score, Kosovo’s average 15-year-old is below Level 2 in scientific proficiency. Level 2 is considered an important benchmark for student performance by PISA as “it represents the level of achievement at which students begin to demonstrate the science competencies that will enable them to engage in reasoned discourse about science and technology.” In Kosovo, only 23 per cent of students attained Level 2 or higher, while the average among the countries tested was 78 per cent.

Highest performers “only average”

Even the highest performers among the 15-year-olds tested in Kosovo rarely set high standards, with the report stating that “in Kosovo, Morocco and the Philippines, even the highest-performing students scored only around the OECD average.” In both reading and science, a negligible amount of students in Kosovo managed to reach the highest levels possible, 5 and 6, while 1 per cent managed to do so in mathematics.

However, the report also shows that the highest scoring students were not as predetermined by their socio economic status as in other countries assessed by the OECD. While the average score of advantaged students was higher than the average score of disadvantaged students in the assessment in Kosovo, it was by just 40 points, compared to an OECD average of 89 points. 

In the reading assessment, 17 per cent of disadvantaged students in Kosovo were able to score in the top quarter of performance, while the OECD average was just 11 per cent.

The report also highlights a more equal performance between Kosovo’s girls and boys than in other OECD tested countries in mathematics. While boys outperformed girls by an average of five points in mathematics across the countries tested, in Kosovo the scores were much more similar. 

Girls in Kosovo also performed better in science in comparison with boys. While girls outperformed boys in the science assessment across all of the countries tested, with girls scores being two points higher on average, in Kosovo this distinction was even greater, with girls’ average scores being six points higher.

A questionnaire conducted alongside the assessment also revealed some other interesting aspects about Kosovo’s 15-year-old students. 

A far higher percentage of students in Kosovo had skipped a day of school in the two weeks prior to the PISA test than the average among the countries tested, with 46 per cent having skipped a day of school in Kosovo compared to an average of 21 per cent.

However, Kosovo students also reported being much more satisfied with their lives than in most other countries, with 82 per cent of students defining their life as being between seven and 10 on a 10-point life-satisfaction scale, compared to an average of 67 per cent among all of the countries tested.

According to outgoing Minister Bytyci, Kosovo will next undergo the PISA assessment in 2021.

03/12/2019 - 13:14


03 December 2019 - 13:14

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.